Accepted paper:

'Thick description' in applied contexts: using interpretive qualitative observations to inform quantitative indicators in food security research


Michael Vimont (University of Akron)

Paper short abstract:

Explanation of theory and methods used in a Community-based Research and Service Learning project combining interpretivist thick description and quantitative analysis to outline food insecurity in a US school, with implications for future studies of European immigration detention centres.

Paper long abstract:

With the relatively recent and drastic restrictions imposed on legal access of immigrant populations to asylum throughout the European Union, conceptual and methodological approaches common in the United States such as structural violence and Community-based Research and Service-Learning (CBRSL) have a potentially great significance in documenting the suffering these restrictions inflict in the form of food insecurity. In particular, a thorough empirical analysis of conditions in European immigration detention centres since the 2011 Return Directive has been sorely lacking. A methodology capable of operating from a limited window of observation would be a useful tool in discerning the potential existence and measurement of food insecurity and other behavioural manifestations of structural violence in these centres. In 2009, I and four other undergraduate researchers under the supervision of Dr Carolyn Behrman of the University of Akron undertook a study of food security at a local inner-city elementary school. By using interpretative local 'thick' descriptions of food insecure behaviour (i.e. 'power eating') to inform quantitative indicators, we were able to detail the scope and pattern of food insecurity in children in the community from the beginning of the month to the end of the month. It is hoped this methodology will influence food security studies of detention centres in particular, immigrant groups in Europe in general, and methodology within applied anthropology as a whole.

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panel P010
Applied anthropology as a source of innovation (EASA Applied Anthropology Network)